“The Storm” will return to the cage next Friday night at Bellator 133 as Alexander Shlemenko will look to get back on track in Bellator as he will meet Melvin Manhoef in the main event of the fight card coming from the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California.
Last year got off to a great start for Shlemenko (51-9) as he made a successful middleweight title defense against Brendan Ward at Bellator 114, however it went downhill from there.
At Bellator 120, he moved up to the light heavyweight division to face former UFC champion Tito Ortiz and was submitted in the first round via an arm triangle choke. Then at Bellator 126, he lost his Bellator middleweight title to Brandon Halsey by rear-naked choke submission.
“After losing my belt, I really thought a lot of what I did right and wrong in preparations for my fights,” Shlemenko told The MMA Report. “I think last year made me much stronger. It made me a much smarter person, much smarter man and much better fighter. This year, 2015 — where I can prove that. Not just myself, but to everybody.”
After losing the Bellator title to Halsey, many people felt that the time had come for Shlemenko to move down to the welterweight division. He admitted that he considered a move to welterweight, but he is sticking at middleweight due to having unfinished business in the 185 pound weight class.
“I thought about it right after my lost to Brandon Halsey but I have to say, prior to my fight with him, my weight because of my diet was 189 pounds. Now that I am back on my diet and I am 205 pounds again and I feel great. Right now, I have unfinished business at 185. I have unfinished business with beating Brandon Halsey and getting my belt back.”
The road to potentially securing a rematch with Halsey will start next Friday night when he meets Manhoef. When Bellator announced last year that Manhoef had been signed by the promotion to a multi-fight deal, many people believe it would only be a matter of time before Shlemenko and Manhoef would meet inside the Bellator cage. When Shlemenko heard about the signing of Manhoef, he felt the exact same way.
“When Bellator signed Melvin, the first thought that came to my mind was that one day we would meet each other in the cage,” he said. “This fight has the possibility of becoming the fight of the year and a lot of people want to see it. I was happy. I was really happy about it.”
Shlemenko enters this fight following a victory in Russia and Manhoef’s last fight took place in November as he was defeated by Joe Schilling at Bellator 133 by knockout. The knockout by Schilling was a candidate for knockout of the year and Shlemenko knows that Manhoef can get reckless with his striking in the cage.
“Sometimes Melvin gets reckless and that is because Melvin literally tries to kill his opponent in the ring or the cage. That is what makes his so exciting. Of course I have studied all of his fights very carefully and I know the mistakes he does.”
At this time, Bellator has not publicly stated if a victory by Shlemenko would secure him a rematch against Halsey. Shlemenko is not sure if a victory over Manhoef will secure a title shot, but that is the fight he wants. In addition to wanting the rematch with Halsey, he wants to be very active in the Bellator cage in 2015.
“If I get the chance to fight for Bellator four times this year, I would make me a happy man but it would be even better if I can fight for Bellator five times this year.”